I first learned about the play called “Lenshina: The Uprising” when I saw the notice on facebook . I was particularly interested because I had heard so little about this woman called Lenshina except a few distorted facts like she had a cult and was crazy. The play was showing at the Lusaka Playhouse for two days. I went to see it on the second day.
The event began a few minutes past 19 hours with the national anthem sang so beautifully by a guy whose name I forgot. Gosh guys! He sang it so well that I fell in love with the Anthem all over again. Then there were a few sketches by the UNZA acting group which were hilarious. A stand-up comedy session later and the main play was ready to begin.
The play begins with Lenshina preaching Love, Peace and Kindness to the masses. She preaches with the aid of 3 interpreters (Bemba, Tonga and Nyanja) who made the audience laugh with the satirical versions of Lenshina’s message. The next scene begins with gun shots as the congregants of the Lumpa church are shot down. A man who we immediately recognize as Kenneth Kaunda (which elicits a cheer from the audience), walks in and looks shocked at the bodies then walks out. Lenshina then comes on stage and when she sees her people laying dead all around, breaks down and weeps. Kaunda walks in again and Lenshina shouts at him telling him that the blood of her people is on his hands. But he retaliates and claims that the blood is also on her hands.
What follows next is a series of scenes filled with conversations between Kaunda and Lenshina. Dialogues characterized by Lenshina’s anger and grief and Kaunda’s denial in the part he played in the massacre. Dialogues filled with historical facts. The play had so many quotables that just turned my head around.
Towards the end of the play, Kaunda gets to a point where he can no longer deny that he and UNIP killed innocent people and not just a rebellious group. The play ends with both Kaunda and Lenshina kneeling over the dead Lenshina followers as they both mourn for the fallen Zambians.
I really liked the play. It was brilliantly written in my opinion. It reminded me of those deep movies that only have 2 people in the whole movie but are still awesome. The dialogues were very good. KulijekuSuzyika Nyimbili played Kaunda and Kabwe Mulenga played Lenshina. They played their roles so well. Mulenga was so emotionally true to her character that it left me thinking that was probably how the real Lenshina felt. So it turns out that Lenshina wasn’t crazy and she didn’t run a cult.
But what hit the most was just how fearless Lenshina was. She called out Kaunda and held her own in an argument. She was so passionate about her cause and wouldn’t let anyone derail her. She was articulate and spoke her mind. She cared for something greater than herself. She was so passionate that some tellers of history called her crazy. Which leads me to think that if she were a man, would some have labeled her as such? Probably not. But that play made me fall in love with Lenshina. It made me admire her audacity to dare. It made me want to embark on a journey greater than myself. It left me so inspired.
Lenshina: The uprising left me bothered by something though. How much of our history do we really know? How much has been left out of the current narratives? How do we even start the search for the full story? I don’t know. I am just glad that people like Kulije (He wrote the play) are researching deeper and sharing the stories with the rest of us.
Now you know I can’t not mention that the play has women at the core of it. The story is about a woman and is co-written by Kabwe Mulenga and Mwambi Kasakwa directed it.
I wish the play had ran for more days so that more people could see it. And I hope that they do more plays about more Zambian historical figures that we know nothing about. Lenshina: The uprising is a good play and is well delivered. If it ever shows again, make sure you see it. And if these guys ever do another play, make sure you see that too because they proved that they are good writers and actors. In the meantime, I’ll just be here in my little corner trying to figure out what to do with all the inspiration I collected from the play. Maybe I should start some sort of revolution…